Die Zeit increases engagement with book club, related newsletter

By Johann Volkmer

Die Zeit

Hamburg, Germany

Because our readers love books, we decided to launch our online book club in October 2020. Our primary motivation was to further enhance our engagement with our existing subscribers and to win new subscribers for Die Zeit. In the first year, more than 112,000 members joined our club and ad sales surpassed US$208,238.

The main product for our community is a weekly newsletter including book recommendations by prominent thinkers and intellectuals, invitations to book club events such as interviews with authors, book giveaways, polls, quizzes and more. While we generate exclusive content, the newsletter is also a platform that makes promoting and accessing existing content from Die Zeit archives possible.

In our weekly community newsletter “Was wir lesen” (“This is what we are reading”), politicians, actors, Zeit journalists, and regular readers talk about the books they love.  

Die Zeit brings literature lovers together with an online book club.
Die Zeit brings literature lovers together with an online book club.

Four goals of the initiative

Our literature community basically pursues four goals:

  1. We want to attract new potential subscribers to Die Zeit through the literature community. The love of books connects all existing subscribers as well as potential subscribers. 
  2. We want to retain existing Die Zeit subscribers. The newsletter curates the best content on one of their favourite topics each week and creates a personal connection through events and interactive formats such as surveys, events, and gamification elements like quizzes.
  3. We want to promote other products of Die Zeit, such as book editions or magazines to our target audience.
  4. We also generate additional ad sales through our newsletter. Our newsletter is a perfect platform for book publishers, giving them direct access to a highly relevant target audience with a strong interest in literature as confirmed by the high click-through rates of the ads.

Exceeding expectations

Our expectations for “Was wir lesen” have been exceeded in all areas. We were able to gain new leads and subscribers through the newsletter community:

• In the first year, we were able to generate 112,000 community members, including 34,000 completely new leads. Every month, we gain up to 2,000 Zeit trial subscribers to our weekly newspaper directly from the community. 

• We have also been able to increase engagement. In contrast to discussion forums, our community also appeals to users who are more reserved but actively participate in surveys, quizzes, and competitions. This leads to high interaction rates. In our book community events, we invite popular German authors — such as Benedict Wells, Eva Menasse, and Daniel Schreiber — and have them interact with an audience of up to 5,000 community members. 

• Our book community has accelerated our cross-selling and upselling wins. We accompany the launch of new products such as book editions and magazines published by Die Zeit in our community, which often leads to several thousand orders per week.

• We have been able to continuously increase the number of ad sales. Over 25 of the leading German book publishers are regular ad partners of our newsletter, resulting in six-figure sales in the first year since launch.

About Johann Volkmer

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